FEATURED: DKA: Our label could be your life
"We made it so people feel like they don't have to be hardcore goths to be interested."
Chris Daresta of synthwave act Anticipation began working at Criminal Records in 2005. The Little Five Points record store then resided next to Junkman's Daughter, where James Ford of industrial-punk outfit Tifaret worked. Both musicians and DJs in their early 20s, the two became friends as Ford ventured into Criminal during breaks, bonding over such goth, industrial and post-punk provocateurs of the 1970s and '80s as Christian Death and Throbbing Gristle.
Daresta met Matt Weiner (ex-Featureless Ghost, sole member of dance/electronic act TWINS) while DJing a Living Walls party in 2012. The three formed an alliance, DJing synth-pop nights at El Myr, dance nights at Mary's, and the infamous Sisters of Turkey holiday Goth Danse Parties at 529. A scene emerged around their sets, so they simply put a name on it. "DKA was a way for people to say, ???Oh, it's those guys again,'" Ford says. "These fuckin' guys."
DKA's name appeared on gritty black-and-white fliers around town, branding the nights in Xeroxed early '80s cut-up style.
The scene gained momentum over the goth nights at 529, filling the club's cavernous space with boots on the dance floor, bathed in pulsating strobe lights, layers of fog and goth, post-punk, industrial and EBM beats.
"We brought it out of the shadows," Ford says. "We made it so people feel like they don't have to be hardcore goths to be interested. Maybe you love Joy Division, but you don't wanna wear platform boots and fishnet shirts. For a long time people felt ostracized if they didn't wanna do that. We made people feel OK to put on jeans and a T-shirt and go to a goth night."
After seeing Ryan Parks' local electro-experimental project Fit of Body, Daresta was convinced that someone should put out his recordings. One day at Criminal, sifting through bins with Ford, Daresta said he would start a label just to put out Fit of Body's record. Ford agreed, adding, "I feel like you and I should start a record label."
Daresta, Ford and Weiner funneled their earnings as they continued DJing and booking shows. "We don't take money from the shows ourselves; it's for the greater community," Weiner says. "When people come through, we set up a good show. DKA serves that function. People see stuff they might not have seen otherwise."
In July 2013, DKA Records debuted with a split 7-inch featuring Midwestern acts Dylan Ettinger and Goldendust. The label released Atlanta-based Southern gothic five-piece Women's Work's self-titled cassette and Fit of Body's Natural Lover the same year. When DKA released L.A. electro-punk High-Functioning Flesh's LP A Unity of Miseries, A Misery of Unities in 2014, they were on the map.Since then, DKA has attracted music they wish to cultivate, rather than seeking out. "One of the things I think about with us is Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life," Ford says. "With the Black Flag scene, they were bringing people or going places where they wouldn't normally have punk shows. They were creating scenes."
Atlanta has become a destination for those on the fringes of punk and dance music's scenes, and DKA is a dark gateway. Artists around the world gravitate toward Atlanta and DKA, sending demos and booking shows.
The label's vibe isn't exclusively goth. In 2016, DKA saw another pivotal release: Northampton, Massachusetts-based coldwave synth-monger duo Boy Harsher's Yr Body Is Nothing, with two represses and 1,150 physical copies sold. The label broke international barriers with Australian synth-punk twin-brother duo Multiple Man's New Metal LP in March.
Daresta, Ford and Weiner have since spent countless hours shipping orders to listeners around the globe. Recently, they teamed up with Omnian Music Group, formed by Captured Tracks' owner/founder Mike Sniper, to handle distribution for the of Berlin-based Sally Dige's Holding On LP, which arrived Sept. 8.
Dige's album is another taking DKA to new heights; Dige drives listeners to the dance floor with songs of pain, loneliness and life's meaninglessness in commanding styles of post-punk, synth-pop and disco. "Dige is basically a one-woman Depeche Mode," Ford says.
With distribution time freeing up, DKA's founders are putting energies back into demos, booking shows and working on their individual projects. Daresta and Weiner's Pyramid Club released its Cyclic Obsession EP via Berlin-based label Unknown Precept in April. TWINS is releasing a full-length with Mike Simonetti's dance music label 2MR next year, and Tifaret will put out a release with Glasgow, U.K.-based label Clan Destine. Whether under the umbrella of DKA or in individual efforts, "these fuckin' guys" are set on a path of universal expansion from Atlanta to the world.